Note: Read all the way to the bottom for the MUST WATCH kids' Christmas show, which will air on Christmas Day.
Okay so here are the things I got this year for gifting that I actually thought were awesome. They meet my "I'd really give this to someone and feel great about it" criteria. Some were things I might never have thought of, but got offered as review. I admit I used a good deal of selectivity in agreeing to receive certain products to review, so there was always a good chance I'd like them, but let's just say some were hits and some were misses. There are also a few things I risked buying online and have since received, whereupon I discovered they were as awesome as I'd hoped. I'll distinguish what I found from what was sent for review.
Here are the hits:
My find -- Lillian Vernon
I used to buy from Lillian Vernon frequently on gift-giving occasions. I'm not sure why I veered away. They have good stuff, you can personalize most of it, it includes things I might not think to buy, and did I mention you can personalize things? I've always been happy with the quality and prices.
So when I was worrying about stocking stuffers for the kids -- so did not want to go the crappy dollar row and candy route -- I turned to Lillian Vernon and found these:
I also found this at Oriental Trading Company:
My kids are a little more sophisticated but still kids, and love things with their names on it.
I also give them each a disposable camera so they can take their own holiday photos. A while back I got them their own photo albums and they have fun adding to that.
However, stuffing my husband's stocking is harder. It's funny to joke about a lump of coal or sack of rocks but he seriously wants the sack of rocks. He's in the middle of paving the area around the pond in the backyard. That's not going to fit into a stocking.
So when I was contacted about reviewing a set of Husky miniature tools, I was game. He's always complaining that he can't find the tool he needs. I got the Husky 48 Piece Tri-Grip Screwdriver Set, which is under $10 and packed neatly, with a lot of pieces. I like how it closes and has a spot for each piece, and it really will fit in the stocking, and be something he'll be glad to get.
Perfect! In fact, when I looked at the Husky site, it was full of cool tools at good deals, mostly under $10. The 45-piece stubby work set looked like another winner.
I believe I've shared stories about how much my youngest likes to draw on walls. I bought a little wall "chalkboard" Princess version from Home Depot. Big miss. Although it attached well to the wall (one of those easy peel and stick that don't mess up paint), it was very small and we ended up with a lot of bleed. It was tough to get clean, too. Frustrated, my daughter went back to doing big art on the regular wall, and I was left with chalk mess on the carpet and wall. (Magic Eraser worked.)
I haven't given up on the idea, though. I did try butcher block paper, but it's hard to attach.
So when WallCandy Arts contacted me about trying their new big peel and stick chalkboard cupcake, I thought maybe this is the one.
It's big. As in, big enough. It's cute, and the theme gives a lot of fun inspiration. The quality of it better so I haven't got the chalk dust as badly as the last one. Also, because of the size, I haven't had the bleed onto the wall issue. I confess I gave it for birthday, but since that's practically the same time...
So I like using it as a tool for to-do and schedule, too. It's in our main hall upstairs, outside the kids' bedrooms. I can make notes and have them check them. It helps the not having to say it 45,000 times. They feel compelled to add notes, too, as well as draw.
My find -- Landau Jewelry
I always struggle with what to get the mothers (mother, stepmother, mother-in-law) and this year, while in New York, I whiled away some time (okay, you got me, like a crow, I'm always attracted to shiny objects) in this store, with a coupon and gift card in hand. I got some great gifts (which I will not feature here before giving them on the chance my parents actually read my blog) (I feel safe on the husband and kids front -- they never do).
However, this is top feature there and looks pretty great to me:
It's mostly "fashion" which is code for "costume" in large part but when I asked a lot of questions, it's pretty well-made, and the bracelet I got for myself has held up really well. I personally prefer to get "fashion" jewelry because I'm most likely to change that often.
My find -- Marshalls
I lucked into Marshalls when it was bursting with good buys. My favorite? The beautiful dresses with matching doll dresses (that fit both American Girl doll and bitty twins) for UNDER $30!!!!
My girls are way into the whole American Girl experience and cute as it is, man, the price tags. So I really appreciate good quality off brands.
BONUS: BEST Christmas program for kids -- Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
Recalling my youngest is nicknamed Monkey, we're big fans of Curious George (in fact, that's her lovey).
I wasn't sure how it would go for my older daughter.
However, both kids LOVED it, and I admit I did too.
It was entertaining, both kids liked the songs. It was funny, the usual George scrapes and fun. And it had a nice message about how gift giving is really about caring, and the best gift is just being together. Very gently delivered. It's a Christmas we can all relate to: imperfectly perfect!
I'm going to rate it up there with Peanuts.
Here's the synopsis:
A Very Monkey Christmas
Airs Christmas Day, Sat. 12/25 on PBS KIDS! (Check local listings)
A Very Monkey Christmas finds George and The Man with the Yellow Hat preparing for Christmas, when they encounter a dilemma—neither can figure out what to give the other for a present! The Man finds George’s wish list filled with geometric shapes, and George doesn’t have a clue what to get The Man who has everything. The Man suggests that George surprise him with a homemade gift, but George isn’t quite sure what a monkey can make for a man. The suspense builds as Christmas approaches. George and The Man with the Yellow Hat follow each other around town, hoping to discover a clue as to what the other would like to find under the Christmas tree. They enlist the help of Hundley, the Pisghettis, Gnocchi, Bill, Betsy, Steven, and even Professor Wiseman and her computers!
Then The Man has a dream in which he sees what life would be like for George without him; contained in the dream is the answer to George’s Christmas wish list riddle. While The Man is dreaming, George begins his homemade gift — a colossal art project that poignantly explains why getting ready for Christmas is so much fun. In the end, both gift-giving predicaments are simply and beautifully resolved revealing the true spirit of the holidays, and everybody has a very monkey Christmas!